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Social Strife

Another demonstrated use of this was for virtual conferencing without the constraints of remaining in the Second Life world. So, while several of you may sit your characters down at a little virtual round table, those that can't make it can join in through regular voice calls.

It all seems very clever and exciting and as a proof of concept it was quite impressive. However I couldn't help but feel this was a solution to a problem that simply doesn't exist. If I want to call to get some food delivered, I still have to pick up my phone (which could be in the next room) and place the order. It's just not a big enough part of the problem that's being cut out and it does rather rely on me spending an unhealthy amount of time on Second Life that I feel the need to order pizza while online. Equally, if you're in a business environment there are plenty of dedicated virtual conferencing services available so why would you encourage your employees to spend more time in Second Life? It's like promoting myspace as a viable workplace communications service.

That said, I wouldn't put BT down for experimenting with some new ways to use all this technology at our disposal. Without the continual progression and refining of these web services we wouldn't have had sites like Facebook and Jaiku spring up, the former of which I admit to being completely addicted to. It's just that, the last thing social networking is about is replacing or substituting existing methods of communication, it is something unto itself and that's the way it will stay.

People seem to have taken the popularity of these sites and services as meaning everyone wants to be constantly in contact with everyone else when, of course, this just isn't the case. I have many a friend on Facebook that I have not spoken to since school and I don't particularly plan on ever meeting in real life again. However, it's nice to just casually catch up, wish people well and see their holiday pictures.

If I was being a bit of a cynic I might even suggest that a lot of social networking is actually just an opportunity for people to show off or give themselves an ego boost by showing how many friends they've got. However, I'm not and I do believe many people happily enjoy it for what it is without any ulterior motive.

Ultimately, it was this mistaken assumption that there was more to social networking than just maintaining casual relationships that ruined MySpace. It got lost in a mire of advertisements and silly backgrounds and, frankly, never recovered. Facebook is still treading the true path but, with it's recent influx of silly add-ons, it is showing a few wobbles. As for where Second Life is going, one only hopes it can stay true to its faithful followers and not try to do more than it should. Otherwise people may get so sick of it and find themselves forced to actually get out of the house and see their friends in RL (Real Life). Then where would we be?!

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